Transcendentalism is a simple idea.It gives people a knowledge about themselves and the world around them. It “transcends” beyond what you can see, hear, touch, taste, and feel.
It is a belief in nature, self reliance and humanity. You should think for yourself without societies rules. Its performing actions based on your values and not others values. These beliefs can have negative and positive effects on one’s identity. Two works that reflect Transcendentalism are Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. Emerson and Thoreau had many of the same ideas, but they were not identical.
A analysis of these two pieces of work can show how transcendentalism can help develop and hinder your own identity. Emerson and Thoreau thought that nature can teach you and help you attain spirituality. They didn’t believe in the restrictions or conformity of society. They believed in individualism. By being yourself, living simply with nature you would develop your identity. Nature was always changing, so you must continually search for answers about life.
They felt you would become connected and let nature make you self-reliant. Thoreau felt you must be humble if you wanted god to approve, “Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights.” (Thoreau 387). Emerson felt you could discover your own truth by trusting yourself. “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” (Emerson 370) .
In both pieces of work they explain how being connected to nature, god and trusting yourself helps you attain spirituality.Emerson and Thoreau thought that you should be an original individual. Many people just conform to rules and not think for theirselves. They felt you should follow your beliefs and values and not others. Emerson felt you should not follow someone’s else’s idea. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” (Emerson 372). Thoreau along with Walden didn’t believe in following along with everyone else, they believe in individuality.
“Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fables tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes.” (Thoreau 382). They though being disconnected from society and being one with nature was necessary. But it can also negatively impact your life. They both shared transcendentalist ideas. But one difference was that in “Walden” Thoreau actually had real experiences, whereas Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Self-Reliance only theoretically wrote about it.
Emerson and Thoreau had some different opinions on individualism and government. Thoreau Went about living his life differently than Emerson. Thoreau lived at Walden and distanced himself from society. He had real experiences and didn’t just write about like Emerson. They both did share similar views and were inspired by Transcendentalism and develop an individual’s identity and self reliance. They felt you should follow your beliefs and find your identity. In doing this you can also impede your development and identity.
Transcendentalist belief can both impede and develop an individual’s identity.